Issue #54


10 Tried and True Ways to Lose Weight

10 Tried and True Ways to Lose Weight

Hannah Lockhart

1. Cocaine: changes the way your body metabolizes food. 

The more you sniff, the less you eat! Don't stop or all that weight will come right back!

I am the biggest baby born at the hospital in 1991, helped along by the copious amounts of Chinese take-out my mother ingested while pregnant. My twin brothers weighed in at six pounds each when they were born seven years before. I weigh eleven pounds, with chubby cheeks and pudgy hands and pinch-able rolls. Mom got huge during this pregnancy, bigger than she’d ever been in her twenty-eight years. In family photos just a year or two later, mom is almost unrecognizably thin. I have never known her at that weight. It is not how I remember or think of her. I ask her years later about how she lost so much in such a short amount of time. Cocaine, she answers, always honest with me about her past. Lots of cocaine.

2. Cigarettes: block hunger and make everything taste like ash. 

Replace meals with a cigarette or two (or three) to diminish appetite!

Great-grandma grew up in the Great Depression and this is evident in her insistence that people finish everything on their plate. She berates me if the dish isn't licked clean, telling me I am rude and wasteful. Though she remains perpetually skinny with the lupus that will kill her soon, mom and I swell in size due to large, carb-heavy portions. I am just a kid, an active kindergartner, playing outside and unconcerned about my chubbiness. I see nothing wrong with myself. Mom always smells of cigarettes. She sits hidden on the deck or around the side of the house, saying she doesn’t want me near the smoke. 

3. Tae-Bo: follow Billy Blanks as he helps you sweat your way to fitness. 

Kick and punch your way to those smaller size jeans hidden in the back of the closet!

Granny’s living room is full of exercise machines. Granny and Mom were both slim in their youth, gaining weight later due to children and overeating and drug rebounds. I’ve never known skinny. I don't have their petite builds. Instead I take after the wide-hipped child-bearing bones of my estranged paternal grandmother. I am about to enter second grade and it is decided that we all gained too much weight while Great-grandma was alive. A work-out routine is devised: 20 minutes on the treadmill, 8 minutes on the row machine, 5 sets of weightlifting, 5 minutes on the stepper. The couch is pushed to the side and we jump on machine after machine in a never-ending circle of sweat and determination. After the machines we gather in front of the TV for 30 minutes of Billy Blanks telling us to kick, punch, twist, squat. It feels like a game to me. None of my friends know what Tae-Bo is, but their moms do.

4. Weight Watchers: keep track of points and go to meetings, learn portion control. 

Be held accountable by your peers for the food you eat!

My elementary school requires school uniforms due to the nearby gangs of Southern California, forcing us to wear khaki, navy, red and white. My thighs are too big for the skirts they order, so I wear shorts and sweatpants and slacks. I get made fun of for being an overweight tomboy and Mom tells me to 'suck it up' because she doesn't know how to handle fat-shaming children. I handle it by nearly breaking the finger of the next boy who calls me names. At home, Auntie has moved in and the four of us take front-and-side-and-back photos in our swimsuits, hanging them on the fridge so we can be held accountable to each other, to stick to our diets and workout plans and meet our weight loss goals. I'm only eight, and in a blue and green one-piece, staring at the camera with a 'can you believe I let myself go like this' expression as I hold out my arms to show off the fat I'm told I shouldn't have.

5. Atkins: limit yourself to 20 carbohydrates per day, cutting out breads and sugars. 

Eat all the bacon you want and still lose up to 5 pounds a week!

Mom could wear a bandana as a shirt when she was a teenager. This idea appeals to me and I want to be able to do the same. I live in layers and baggy jeans, rarely taking off my sweatshirt even in the summer because I don't want people to see the way my arms wobble. Being able to wear something that shows off a lot of skin is the dream. I keep a bandana slung over my mirror as motivation, trying it on every few days to see if I've gotten any closer. It's black and covered in a skulls and chains pattern, so I can be sexy and edgy at the same time. Because of a birth defect in my knees that makes it hard to run, crouch, kneel and stand, physical activity is limited for me. Mom suggests low-carb dieting. My packed lunches are string cheese and nuts and lunch meat and veggie sticks while everyone else in the cafeteria eats pizza and apples and chips and bread. I drink water like a fish the bandana shirt inches closer. But as soon as carbs are reintroduced to the system, the weight comes back with interest. The bandana never fits.

6. Gastric Bypass: a surgery to remove part of your stomach and small intestine. 

A smaller stomach means a smaller waist; cut it away now with a simple surgery!

Moms starts attending weekly support group meetings at the hospital for people pre-or-post gastric bypass. She drags me along so that I can learn what she's about to go through, trying to get me excited. She loses the weight quickly after surgery, suddenly smaller than me, fragile in my hands. She never reaches the thinness of her youth, but she’s more confident. She wears dresses and cute heels, starts thinking about getting a boyfriend. During the day she goes through my closet looking for old clothes of mine she can finally wear. In the middle of the night she calls for me and I wipe away her sweat, hold her through her shakes, and take her special liquid protein because she no longer gets the nutrients she needs through the small amount of food she is capable of eating. I ask a friend’s mom to drive her to the hospital one night when something lodges in the new twisted angles of her intestine. I’m not old enough to drive. I sit at home alone, wait to hear if she dies or not, wait for Auntie to drive the fourteen hours from one end of California to the other to stay with me. Eventually Mom’s stomach will return to a near-normal size and a good amount of weight will be gained back because cutting away a piece of your body doesn't suddenly make you learn how to eat better. She will never be as big as she was before the surgery, but she will always see herself as fat.

7. Partner: an active sex life and someone that doesn't enable 3am fast food cravings. 

Being with someone you love will make you want to be a better you, emotionally and physically!

I have a quick decline in weight during the beginning of my first serious relationship. I’m doing my best to stay active, remain enticing. After a few years, I drop out of college to get a full-time desk job to support the two of us. I sit in a chair for forty hours a week, sedentary after years of physical retail work. The end of every week seems to coincide with someone’s birthday or retirement or anniversary or pet adoption or an appreciation that leads to potluck after potluck. There is always food within reach. I have no energy to work out due to long, emotionally taxing days. At home, my boyfriend always wants to eat out and I'm too tired to cook or grocery shop so I don’t argue. We consider having sex sometimes but neither of us wants to take our clothes off unless it's to put pajamas on. We lament over our weight then go get fast food and fall asleep watching cooking competitions on TV.

8. Depression: sleep all day so you don't feel the effect of skipping meals. 

If you don't have the will or motivation to eat, the weight will come right off!

For a long time, I refuse to buy clothes that fit me. If I agree to buy the bigger sizes, I'm accepting my weight gain. It's easier – if uncomfortable – to be in denial. Plus-size clothes are either unflattering, or expensive. I pay twice as much for the extra cloth. I live in leggings and over-sized shirts or dresses, afraid of jeans that won't button. My energy and willpower diminish, and I tell myself I will always be fat and ugly, an echo of Mom’s words about herself. It's easier to accept my fate, to sleep all day and zone out to Netflix. On the days I feel numb, I eat one meal and go back to sleep. Other times, I stuff my face with carbs and sugars, inhaling my emotions. I am stuck in a rut. I am unable to move forward because I am fat. Life can't begin until I'm thin. I can't travel or date or write or publish. The pictures will always be awful, force me to see how big I've gotten. Mom will comment on my pudgy fingers, my double chin. Granny will say I am lucky to have big breasts as they hide the size of my stomach. So, I stay in bed. I hide under the covers and I wish for a weight loss fairy to grant me strength and money, instant-thinness and zero calorie mac-n-cheese.

9. Liquid Protein: replace all your meals with liquid protein to wash out the fat. 

Sick of chewing? Drink away the pounds!

I have a group chat with Mom and Granny where we commiserate together about our attempts at joining gyms, considering low-calorie, trying Atkins again, new diets. Granny tells us to drink liquid protein and eat nothing. She does it every few months, loses ten pounds and then goes back to her midnight cereal. Auntie has diabetes, the bad kind not the fat kind like Granny, Mom, Uncle had. She's deathly skinny so we don't include her in these conversations where we talk about the weight we've gained and how much we're trying to lose, how we've failed to do so. For Christmas, Mom buys me a shirt in a 5XL and I wonder if this is how she sees me, even though I'm drowning in the cotton.

10. Study Abroad: go to a different country and try new foods. 

Tired of the same old processed food? Plan a trip somewhere halfway across the world!

During my first quarter at University, a professor talks about the opportunity to study abroad. I have always wanted to travel. My friends tell me this is a great chance to go someplace I would never otherwise go. I don’t even know where Senegal is until I Google it. My professor tells me to apply, convinces me about how much fun it'll be. What an experience it'll be. How going out and exploring the world will make me a better writer. 

I apply and pay the fees before I can let my weight convince me to wait. Suddenly I'm on a time clock. If there's eight months until I get on the plane, and I stick to a diet plan, how much can I lose before I go? I make charts with weight goals, write up a diet plan, a meal plan. Will I need to buy new outfits because of the weight loss? Will I lose enough to be confident in pictures, in sharing a room with someone, in taking up as little space as possible? 

I manage Atkins for a couple weeks and lose almost ten pounds. It comes back as soon as the bread does. The months pass by and nothing has changed. 

I buy clothes for the size I am. The trip is getting closer and I can’t flake out like I would with anything else. It’s a slow, uphill struggle to realize what I should have known long ago. 

I can enjoy things. My size does not mean that I can’t start living. 

Circle of Breath

Circle of Breath

Under the Light